How the Collegiates Fuel: Spotlight on Jaimie Phelan

This week we hear from collegiate runner Jaimie Phelan of the University of Michigan! Jaimie is very passionate about health and nutrition, and she shares an abundance of knowledge that she has learned throughout her years competing.

Jaimie Phelan

  1. Who are you? Jaimie Phelan, 21, Kitchener, Ontario Canada, University of Michigan, 800m & 1500m.
  2. Short description of running experience or greatest achievement? Member of the 2016 Big Ten Championship team in Indoor and Outdoor track and Cross Country, member of the 2016 NCAA Cross-Country runner-up team, 4x All-American (3x DMR, 1x1500m),Three-time All-Big Ten first team (800, 600 & 1500), XC NACAC Champion 2014, 1500m finalist at Canadian Olympic Trials .
  3. What is your your favorite pre-workout snack? Meal? For snacks I love bananas, cereal, honey and oats bars, applesauce, almonds, mini crackers cheese and turkey sandwiches. I stay away from really heavy and greasy foods that I know may affect my stomach when I am running. I like to have chicken wraps, oatmeal, Greek yogurt or English muffin with peanut butter, hard boiled/scrambled eggs before workouts. I like to keep it simple, but also switch it up a bit once in a while for variety and to ensure I’m taking in different types of nutrients.
  4. How do you refuel after an easy day? Hard day? After every type of workout, whether it be an intermediate run, long run, cross training or a hard track workout, I always drink water and a cup of Gatorade immediately after and consume some type of nutrient fuel like chocolate milk or a banana. Then I’ll usually go home and have a more substantial meal. After a hard effort, I never restrict myself and I eat a good sized meal to refuel. I also switch it up a lot, but I like to have vegetables with some carbs and meat and then a little fruit afterwards. For vegetables I typically like broccoli, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts or asparagus, my carbs are generally rice, my meat is usually chicken or fish (tilapia or salmon), and the fruit I most often enjoy are cantaloupe and strawberries. If my sweet tooth kicks in I like to have chocolate covered almonds.
  5. When it comes to running and nutrition, do you believe they go hand in hand? Yes, definitely! Proper nutrition is what gives you the energy you need to perform at your best in every aspect of your life, not only running. When you are eating the right amount of food and the right kinds of food, you can properly function throughout the day. You are more energized and overall you feel happier. You may train as much as you want, do as many ab exercises as you can or go for as long of a run as you want, and may never reach your goals if you are not fueling your body with healthy choices and the right amount of food.
  6. Many runners believe they need to cut calories to run faster times. Do you believe that you need to be “thin to win”? I believe that you need to be strong and healthy… Those who become very thin may experience some immediate success in running, dropping times, running faster etc. however, if you don’t have the muscle and strength to sustain higher training levels your body will eventually, and naturally, begin to break down and work against you resulting in various types of injuries. Our bodies need energy and fuel food to keep functioning at the rate that runners require. For example, I believe my overall food intake is at a higher level than many of my friends who are not competitive runners.Jaimie Phelan
  7. Eating disorders are a very prevalent topic in the running world, more so than they used to be. Why do you think that is? I am very passionate about mental health and overall wellbeing. I think that it is absolutely amazing that more and more people are able to share their story and help break down the stigma against eating disorders and other mental illnesses. A number of strong and resilient individuals have struggled with eating disorders and survived it. Now in today’s society many are sharing their experiences to connect, influence and ultimately help others. It is empowering. Hearing others talk about their experiences can hopefully help others understand eating disorders and help others who may be struggling themselves. While the immediate inference is often that eating disorders are directly linked to becoming thin to win within the competitive running world, several studies have linked eating disorders directly with overall mental health challenges. In general, eating disorders and other mental health challenges have only recently become a topic of open candid discussion within our society, and specifically among athletes. Thus, the rationale with it becoming so topical in recent years.I believe there are many factors that can play a role into why an individual may be struggling with an eating disorder such as environmental, hereditary, and biological factors, etc. Everyone can experience eating disorders differently. Often times, eating disorder can develop over the course of a few years, and other times eating disorders can very quickly feel like it becomes out of control. Some individuals may not even realize themselves that they are experiencing an eating disorder. I can only recommend that athletes surround themselves with supportive teammates, trainers, coaches etc. that will assist in asking for help and ensuring the proper counsel is available to those in need. At times things can be very difficult, but always remember that you are worth more than the struggles you have gone through. Believe in yourself, ask for help, and love yourself. There are more people that care for you, love you and are there for you than you may think. Thank you to those who have shared their experiences, as you have saved more lives than you may realize, and for those who may still be struggling in silence, you are strong, intelligent and resilient individuals. Never stop fighting.
  8. Have you ever struggled with negative body image? If so, how did it affect your running? Yes! With distance running especially, I see amazing runners body types and have thought many times that I need to look like them in order to reach the same level of success, but it’s not true. Everyone has different body types and I have learned to love the body that I have and I have found the ways that my body gives me my own individualized strengths. Although I have never had an eating disorder, I have gone through a lot of my own struggles mentally that resulted in me not feeling hungry or wanting to eat, but realizing how important nutrition is for running and your overall wellbeing I would try my hardest to find easy and quick healthy choices for me to eat, whether it would be cut up fruit such as cantaloupe, raspberries and strawberries from the fridge or sliced pieces of turkey, or cereal, oatmeal etc. Other times during my running career when I was injured, I found that I began to gain more weight and I began to really worry that I wasn’t going to be able to run fast once I was able to run again. I couldn’t work out because of my injury, so at first I naturally went to eating less. I began to crave and eat more sweets and desserts and ate less whole foods and food in general. I would then feel worse about my body afterwards. After my second injury I really focused on eating a lot of healthy foods, fruits, vegetables, foods high in iron to maintain energy and foods high in vitamin A and C to help with healing. I did gain more weight when I was injured, but I also realize that it wasn’t always a bad thing. Although I wasn’t running, I still needed fuel and eat proper food to help my body heal. I was getting stronger and healthier.
  9. If you could give one piece of advice to younger runners, what would you tell them? No matter the age or level at which you are running at throughout your life, whether it be in middle school, high school, college, or professionally, never forget why you love this sport!  Find the reason why you keep fighting, find that passion and hold on to it. Stay true to yourself and don’t stress about the little things. Understand that it’s truly okay if you don’t perform to your best every single race. The finish line is just the beginning of the next race. The key is to understand what you can do to get better, have the discipline to put the work in, remained focused diligent with your training. Most importantly, embrace the people that you have around you, your family, friends, teammates and coaches for these are the people that are there for you, they have supported me and ultimately have had the most impact on my running career.
  10.  What are five staple foods in your diet? Salmon, cereal, bananas, sweet potatoes, crackers cheese and turkey
  11. Do you have any healthy food hacks? As a kid growing up my sister and I would eat cut up bananas in a bowl with milk as our dessert after dinner. It is a snack that I still eat today. At times when I am craving something sweet I either turn towards fruit, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered almonds or cereal. I also love “egg in a nest” where you cut a circle out of the center of toast and crack an egg in the circle- perfect for dipping the outside of the bread into!
  12. What is your favorite pre-race meal the night before? Ideally, my pre-race meal usually consists of usually salmon, rice and veggies or a pasta with shrimp or chicken. When we are traveling I try to again keep it simple. I rarely try new things the night before a race, but I also try to make sure that I stay easy going and open minded to several food options. Sometimes there may not be any restaurants nearby that serve what you normally have as a pre-race meal, so in this case I would look for an option that I know will not upset my stomach and has some nutritional value. For the most part, I believe the meal that you consume the night before your race can affect you as much as you let it, (as long as it’s not really greasy or unhealthy food). It is what you fuel your body with during your training and leading up to the race that will affect you the most.
  13. Ultimate post-race meal or treat? Definitely a cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and a vanilla milkshake or a chocolate bar.
  14. Any last words of wisdom? We all love to win, but really the ultimate goal should be to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you know deep down that you have accomplished this and utilized the gifts god has granted you, then you will instill yourself with much more pride, happiness and self fulfilment than any medal can provide.  Jaimie Phelan
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Author: Johanna

Runner, photographer, breakfast lover and mountain hiker. Passionate about nutrition and inspiring others.

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